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Sandy M’s review of When She Was Wicked (Honeycote, Book 1) by Annie Barton
Historical Romance published by Forever 29 Jan 13

What lovely breath of fresh air this book is. Annie Barton gives readers a heroine brave enough to do what it takes to support her family and face the duke who catches her red-handed.

Anabelle Honeycote is a lowly dressmaker, and it’s while she’s going about her duties that she hears the latest gossip, which gives her ideas on how to bring in the extra money needed to take care of her younger sister and very ill mother. Now, while her plan may be a bit illegal, it works and she has a set of rules she sticks to – she only extorts money from those who can afford it, she never demands more than she needs to cover her bills, she would never reveal secrets from current “clients,” and never, ever socially interact with her “clients.” Yes, she’s an extortionist, but she’s trying to be a good one, one with a conscience.

Her luck runs out when she sets her sights on the Duke of Huntford. The man isn’t about to let someone besmirch his sister’s reputation, so he leaves the demanded money and then lies in wait. Needless to say, he’s a bit startled when he realizes he has Ms. Honeytcote from the dress shop dead to rights. Instead of handing her over to the local constable, he proposes she work for her release, creating new wardrobes for both his sisters. Relieved, Anabelle agrees.

Of course, being in the same house, no matter how sprawling it is, is not the best situation for either of them. Feelings neither of them ever expected surface, and when they’re not in each other’s arms, they are trying to say away from one another. Both wishing the time it takes to create gowns of all kinds would take much longer than it truly does. Anabelle becomes friends with Huntford’s sisters, Olivia and Rose, who hasn’t spoken since she witnessed a horrible situation years before. I like how Huntford dotes on his sisters, always worried and willing to do anything for them, pained by Rose’s silence. He allows Anabelle to visit her family, and once he meets them and learns about their hardship, he willingly pays for their every need, even going so far as to have the doctor treating Belle’s mother checked out.

Anabelle is grateful, of course, but she knows better than anyone she and Huntford can never be together. He discovers she’s the granddaughter of a baronet, but for some reason she refuses to even talk about that. Then when he learns she’s harbored a secret that has the potential to hurt one of his sister’s, forgiveness will be hard to come by.  I enjoyed both Huntford and Anabelle very much. Especially Anabelle. She has backbone and is loyal to a fault, feels hurt deeply, even when it belongs to someone else. Huntford is the very noble aristocrat with a backbone even more rigid than Anabelle’s. He finds himself rethinking everything he’s worked for. Will it be worth anything without Belle?

There’s action, there’s romance, there’s emotion, friendship, and a lot of fun. I really like the sewing terms used at the beginning of some chapters. Very intriguing. All characters are likable and sympathetic, and you get lost in their lives, travails, and triumphs. Ms. Barton’s debut book is a total hit. I look forward to see what she comes up with next.

SandyMGrade: B+



A dressmaker in London’s busiest shop, Miss Anabelle Honeycote overhears the ton’s steamiest secrets—and (occasionally) uses them to her advantage. It isn’t something she’s proud of, but the reluctant blackmailer needs the money to care for her gravely ill mother. To make up for her misdeeds, Anabelle keeps to a firm set of rules:

  • Never request payment from someone who cannot afford it.
  • Never reveal the secrets of a paying client.
  • Never enter into any form of social interaction with a client.

Her list keeps her (somewhat) honest—until she encounters Owen Sherbourne, the Duke of Huntford. Not only does Owen nip Anabelle’s extortion plans in the bud, the devilishly handsome Duke soon has the sexy seamstress dreaming of more than silks and satins. With Owen, Anabelle enjoys pleasures she never imagined. . . until a scandal from the past resurfaces. Now her rules could mean his family’s ruin. Owen’s searing kisses carry the promise of passion, but how will he react when Anabelle’s most devastating secret is finally revealed?

No Excerpt Available.